Mansfield Park (1999)
Main Menu Audio
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-On The Set With Patricia Rozema
|Year Of Production||1999|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Patricia Rozema|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Jonny Lee Miller
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Jane Austen was the first and remains the greatest writer of what is now fashionably called 'chick lit', but that is only half the story. She was an extraordinary, pioneering woman who, when the novel was still in its infancy, took it and perfected its form, illuminating stories of social hierarchy and manners with intelligence and acerbic wit. Sadly though, in one of the unkindest cuts of all, none of her delectable literary masterpieces were published in her lifetime. Since that time however, her work's popularity has grown and endured, so much so in fact that Pride and Prejudice was recently voted Australia's second favourite book, beaten only by the significantly heavier and in recent years, owing to a certain smallish film trilogy filmed in New Zealand, more glamorous The Lord of the Rings.
Popular enough even for the numbers-driven world of Hollywood, which has had a hand in numerous film adaptations of almost all of Austen's novels - most, surprisingly, relatively faithful to the spirit, if not the letter of the author, and perhaps more importantly for any story, charming, witty and entertaining. Following in the footsteps of the BBC's literate if a little mannered and stodgy adaptations in the 1970s and '80s, the Austen craze began in earnest in 1995 with the release of the much-lauded miniseries of Pride and Prejudice, the inspiration for Bridget Jones' Diary, as well as the unheralded but excellent Persuasion and the Oscar-winning Sense and Sensibility, my personal favourite, with wonderful performances from Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman (and I suppose Hugh Grant). Then in quick succession came two versions of Emma, a charming, zestful romp featuring Gwyneth Paltrow's first outing with an English accent (and Aussies Toni Collette and Greta Scacchi) and a more dowdy, bookish version with a then unknown Kate Beckinsale.
As with everything in Hollywood, the infatuation with all things Austen came to a swift end. Admittedly most of the books had been adapted, but not all. So, in 1999, one of the few left untouched, except by the BBC years earlier, Mansfield Park became a feature film, the first to be helmed by (gosh!) a woman! The story, apparently the one closest to the author's heart (perhaps because Austen put more of herself into the character of Fanny Price than any other?) is no more or less adventurous than the author's other work, but director Patricia Rozema's take on the material is particularly interesting, as it includes snippets from Austen's own letters interspersed with the story proper - creating a more socially aware period film than many audiences will have seen before. The fact that the magnificent estate of Mansfield Park, owned by the complex character of Sit Thomas Bertram (playwright Harold Pinter), is paid for by the exploitation of black slaves in the plantations of the West Indies is made clear, the moral depravity of it becoming a source of the elder Bertram son's terrible illness.
Whisked away from her mother's poverty stricken home as a small child to live and work at Mansfield Park under the glaring eye of her mother's sister, Aunt Norris, Fanny Price (Australian actor Frances O'Connor in a wonderful, Oscar consideration-worthy performance) learns all too quickly that her mother's choice to marry for love, not money, has rendered her a hopelessly idealistic romantic without the financial means to ever hope to wed her one true love, Edmund Bertram (Jonny Lee Miller). Witty, clever and passionate, we seethe as we watch her dreams of happiness be washed away thanks to the arrival of a more suitable wife in Mary Crawford (Embeth Davitz, who succeeds admirably in creating a character of questionable morals without turning her into a viper). Mary's brother Henry (Alessandro Nivola), who flirts casually with the affianced elder daughter of Aunt Norris, is an unscrupulous rake who, in a seeming change of heart and character, tries to win Fanny's affections. When Sir Thomas declares Fanny will wed Crawford she refuses and is cast out of the state, returning home to her family at Portsmouth until she is dramatically recalled to tend to Edmond's seriously ill older brother (James Purefoy).
Will Fanny's love for her suitor Henry Crawford develop or will her love for Edmund finally be requited? I will not divulge more but Austen fans will no doubt have their suspicions as to the narrative's likely conclusion, one reached with great style, wit and panache - which the story's author obviously had in abundance. This is as rich and red blooded a telling of a period film as one would ever wish to have, with a uniformly superb cast, wonderful locales and costumes, and of course, that dialogue.
The video presentation is perfectly acceptable for a modestly budgeted film such as this, if a little disappointing in parts. It is framed correctly at approximately 1.78:1, with 16x9 enhancement.
Sharpness levels are good, as is shadow detail. Some of the night scenes lose some subtle details, but mostly the image is nice and clear.
Colours are a little muted - it seems intentionally, but are well rendered, with realistic looking skin tones.
Particularly at the beginning of the film the video is affected by some quite serious grain - compression artefacts being more prevalent, but thankfully the transfer settles down and whilst not clearing up completely, is not affected to the same extent.
The transfer has some mild aliasing and edge enhancement but they are not a major concern.
Film artefacts are also kept at bay for the most part.
We are presented with a solitary English 5.1 Dolby Digital track that is perfectly suited to the film.
Dialogue is clear and rich.
Audio sync is faultless.
There were no detectable audio dropouts or blemishes.
The surround channels and subwoofer add richness and weight to the fantastic score by Lesley Barber, as well as providing some environmental ambience.
|Surround Channel Use|
All extras are presented at 1.78:1, with 16x9 enhancement, although black bars appear on the right hand side of the screen during the on set featurette.
Disconcertingly, these interviews, with Patricia Rozema, Frances O'Connor, Embeth Davitz and Alessandro Nivola are broken up into tiny segments punctuated by unnecessary onscreen placards telling us what they're about to say. In total the four segments run about twenty minutes but almost half the time is taken up by the disc's transitions. Still, we do get a few insights, although based on the sound cutting out before the video, it seems as though these interviews have been edited down to their barest selves.
On set at Mansfield Park, with Patricia Rozema
It isn't really with the director at all, as no-one directly addresses the camera, and the five minute piece is little more than a behind the scenes camera sneaking a look at the shooting of a couple of scenes. Nothing show stopping at all, and very little information is passed on.
Thank goodness the film's presentation was better than this - dark, excessively soft and with some audio crackling at the beginning. Running just on two minutes it is of decent enough quality but looks terrible.
Once again the Region 4 inexplicably misses out on the highlight of the Region 1 package.
The Region 1 misses out on:
With two audio tracks missing on our release, and nothing of value gained, I would opt for the Region 1, which at the moment can be picked up for about $20 Australian.
A wonderful film.
Very good video for the most part.
The loss of the audio commentary is very disappointing.
|DVD||Yamaha DVR-S100, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||Yamaha DVR-S100 (built in)|
|Speakers||Yamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer|